One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is impingement or “pinching” of the soft tissue structures in the shoulder. Some of the most common sites of impingement are the tendons of the rotator cuff, such as the supraspinatus tendon, the bicep tendon, and the sub-acromial bursa. Shoulder impingement can be quite painful and many patients initially believe that they are headed straight to surgery because the pain can be intense at times. However, shoulder impingement can be effectively managed by conservative care such as physical therapy.
So what causes shoulder impingement? There are many things that can cause shoulder impingement such as repetitive overhead reaching or lifting, repetitive throwing activities, and poor posture. When the structures of the shoulder (ie. tendons, bursa) become inflamed from these activities or positions, patient’s tend to avoid using the upper extremity because of pain and the result is that the shoulder and shoulder blade become weak, thus leading to further dysfunction of the shoulder complex.
How do you fix shoulder impingement? Seeing a physical therapist is a good start. Since New York now has direct access, you can come directly to physical therapy without going to see your doctor first. A physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation to determine which structures in the shoulder are causing your pain. Once that determination is made, a plan of care will be formulated to help reduce your pain, restore your range of motion, and to strengthen the shoulder and shoulder blade, which will alleviate you shoulder pain during activities of daily living.
When should I come to physical therapy? The sooner you begin care, the faster your symptoms will decrease. People tend to wait to see if their pain will “go away”, which can often lead to longer recovery times. So if you are having shoulder pain, give us a call as soon as possible so we can evaluate and treat the problem to get you back to your normal life – without pain!
Heather Chatt, PT, DPT, OCS, Cert. MDT